The workers who clean our toilets, do our laundry and make our food
They serve our food, do our laundry and clean our latrines. Essentially, they are our maids and I don’t feel they get the credit they deserve. At nearly every base, hundreds of local nationals work for us. In addition, there are a ton of Turkish and Pilipino workers taking care of the little things that make our life easier.
Not once in the past 11 months have I done the one thing I dread most in life – laundry. Not once have I had to take a sponge to a toilet, mopping up people’s bio-hazardous leftovers. And not once have I had to stand over a stack of soiled dishes during KP duty.
In many respects, these guys are serving our cause just as much as the infantry soldiers on patrol. While they receive little pay, the workers on post are just as much at risk as we are – if not more. A couple months ago, several Turkish workers were killed during mortar attacks. This makes eating chow a little difficult, because now when they here any type of explosion, the Turkish guys run for the bunkers and stay there for three to four hours. They are shell shocked, and there have been times that the large tubs of chow have been left unattended because the workers are too nervous. The local Iraqis who work for us are constantly receiving death threats. The terrorists follow the workers to their homes and kill them.
Once a guy who bought our fresh vegetables was beheaded for working with us. They video taped his death. I saw it. A fat, masked Arabic man stood over the vegetable man’s lifeless, headless body and said “this is what will happen to you if you work with the Americans.” Of course, back in September, my good friend Samir – our interpreter – was gunned down by terrorists. They no doubt would have beheaded him, as they first captured him, but he escaped. He ran through the city he grew up in and was shot in the back and died in the same area he was born. He believed in this country’s future and was willing to do whatever it took to create a free Iraq – even paying the ultimate sacrifice.
In fact, most of the workers are here not just for the adequate pay, but because they support us. It helps that we’ve caught or killed a lot of the people threatening them. But just like the days of Troy – with the Trojan Horse – all warfighters are suspicious of the people working for us. For all we know, they could be pacing off mortar impact areas as they sweep our streets. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what they do for us, but I am still very skeptical. There was a point that we had a slew of workers killed and in my opinion, somebody had to be on the inside identifying the workers and interpreters.
Nonetheless, I treat the workers with respect and dignity as do all the other soldiers. We just keep a close eye on them. And I’m of the opinion that you can kill hate with kindness. For the most part, I am very friendly to the workers. I shake their right hands – not their left. I try to teach them English. I give them candy. And I always smile.
This ends up back firing on me sometimes. Once, an Iraqi man asked if I’d like to “Fecki, Fecki.” I didn’t know what that meant, so I asked our interpreter. He grinned and said, “he wants to have sex with you.” In the states, my friends tease me because gay men tend to ask me out. If I wanted to, I’m sure I could be on the cover of “Gay Pride.” I’ve been hit on by more men than women, and now I’ve been propositioned in Iraq. I’m straight and after I nearly gagged, I made sure the Iraqi understood that. Of course, I also told him thanks for serving his country – even if he did hit on me.